On the Beaten Path: Touring St.-Germain
Touring Paris sometimes means staying on the path most traveled. This can make looking for an authentic evening out among locals something of a challenge if you happen to be strolling in a place like the Marais or St.-Germain-des-Prés as the clock strikes 8:00 and you are hungry for something real. Just about every restaurant will be bursting with a cacophony of languages. How can you tell if the place is any good?
One of my fallbacks in St.-Germain is the charming U of semipedestrian streets next to the Marché St.-Germain: rue Princesse, rue Guisarde and rue des Canettes. To begin with, there are some worthwhile stores, like the vintage boutique Les 3 Marchés de Catherine B and the fashionable handbag shop Rue Princesse. My favorite place, Au Plat d’Etain, specializes in tin soldiers and figurines that commemorate French history or celebrate scenes of Alpine skiing, rugby matches, colonial parades or the cancan.
Chez Fernand is one of my favorite addresses here. Considering its übertraditional red-checked tablecloths, I was convinced this place was a tourist trap until I started reading the menu, which turned out to be market fresh with a modern twist. Then I began noticing all the local shopkeepers getting together here over lunch, and I was soon smitten with both the crowd and the cuisine. Nearby, Giraudet is a soup bar with fresh, surprising ingredients—the perfect spot for a low-calorie gourmet meal for the local ladies who lunch. And the newest addition is L’Âne et la Mule wine bar, which draws a young Parisian crowd with tapas-style snacks that allow you to try a maximum of flavors without overdoing it. Just around the corner, Aux Charpentiers celebrates the old carpenters’ guild with elaborate wood models and excellent traditional dishes that change with the day of the week. The customers have clearly been regulars for decades. Also in this area are some local bars if you want to catch a soccer game or a rugby match, and for an evening gelato you can hit up Amorino.
All of this is just around the corner from the quintessentially Parisian Café de la Mairie, where you can snatch a table outside and enjoy the view of the exquisite St.-Sulpice church as chic rive gauche Parisians pass by, never sure if you are one of them or simply touring Paris.
13, Rue Guisarde, in the 6th Arrondissement.
Café de la Mairie
8, place St.-Sulpice, in the 6th.
Les 3 Marchés de Catherine B
Au Plat d’Etain
L’Âne et la Mule
Editor’s note: To further explore this part of Paris, download one of our tours of the neighborhood. We recommend the stroll from St.-Germain to the Louvre and the stroll from St.-Germain to Notre Dame for a unique walk in this charming area.